This week on fee-only advisor journey, SEBI registered investment advisor Vikram Krishnamoorthy narrates his journey from MBA student to working as a financial advisor for the Canadian government to running an efficient and successful fee-only advisory service. Vikram is part of my list of fee-only advisors and Fee-only India (FOI): a movement to serve investors and advisors. I use the words organized and efficient because there is no better way to describe how Vikram approaches fee-only advisory and all FOI members (we all met last year and again last month) will attest to this.
Vikram is also the perfect role model for any entrepreneur who wants to start out on their own, counting on their passion, competence and effort in servicing online clients from all parts of the globe. Right from offering clarity about the service on his website to explaining the client of the financial planning process to optimizing each stage of the service.
As mentioned before, several DIY investors have contacted Vikram for validating their plans. I will request Vikram to write about entrepreneurial optimization in a separate post. Readers may recall that in a previous guest post he had explained what is the real purpose of a Financial Plan?
If you wish to work with Vikram or if you wish to become a fee-only advisor and need some counsel. you can contact him via his website: insightful
My interest in financial planning began in 2005 while I was doing my MBA. I had the opportunity to sign up for a one-month crash course in ‘Wealth Management’ which introduced me to the world of personal financial planning. All my life, I kept hearing from family and friends about personal financial issues and always wondered what the causes were. The course gave a little insight and helped me find some of the answers. I was intrigued by what I had learned and eventually chose ‘Scope of Wealth Management services in Coimbatore’ as my final research project. That was when I knew that I wanted a career in Financial Planning.
I decided to learn more and hone my skills in financial planning but could not find good degrees or jobs specifically for this in India. Most companies who offered wealth management services were indeed nothing but product pushers.
As financial planning was in its infancy in India around 2005, I decided to go abroad to specialize and gain some valuable experience in a country where this field was at a more advanced stage. So after my MBA in Finance and briefly working with ‘Indiabulls Securities’ for a few months, I had the opportunity to go to Canada in 2006 to complete a 1 year ‘Post Graduate degree in Financial Planning’. Simultaneously, I also passed all the exams for the CFP in Canada and got my designation in that first year.
I was 23 and was excited to put all my learning into practice and finally be a financial planner. But there came my first roadblock. The jobs offered to CFPs were more about being a glorified salesman, expected to do 10% financial planning and 90% product selling and achieving targets.
Being a foreigner there, I did not have much of a choice and had to take up a job that was closest to what I wanted. I worked for a couple of banks over a period of four years. I hated being measured by the number of financial products I sold rather than the quality of the financial advice I gave to clients. Although I did well at my job, it disturbed me to know that I could have recommended better solutions to clients but could not do so because my employer did not offer those products or solutions.
A few years later, I finally got a job that I loved, at the government’s pension board as a ‘financial advisor’. It required me to give ‘unbiased’ advice to government employees and pensioners. As there was no need for the government to sell any financial products, I was free to give advice that best suited the client’s needs, irrespective of how simple or complex the solution was and this was what I always wanted to do.
A new beginning
In the course of time, I got married and we had 2 children. We always wanted to come back to India and settle down when it was time for our children to start their schooling and so we made the move in 2014. I was contemplating over joining a big financial institution as an advisor or starting out on my own. The one thing that I was absolutely certain about was that I did not want to ‘sell’ another financial product again. So I decided to be independent and practice as a financial planner, more importantly, an unbiased fee-only planner.
It was not an easy decision, and many people around me advised against this venture. The ‘safe’ option was to get a job with a large, renowned bank. I was even ‘warned’ that no one would be willing to pay a fee for advice when they can get it for free elsewhere. I was determined to prove that free advice is more expensive than fee advice. I strongly believed that if you create true value, clients will embrace this model. By this time, SEBI had just introduced the RIA license and it added another layer of credibility to what I was going to do. In about 3 months after my return to India, I passed the required NISM exams and got my RIA license.
I launched my website in March 2015 and officially began my practice in India. At that time, there were less than 250 RIAs in the country, but surprisingly I could not find anyone in that group NOT selling products directly or indirectly. During that search was when I came across Pattu’s blog and his list of fee-only planners and was surprised by how small the list was. I reached out to Pattu and after being validated, he was kind enough to add me to the list. That was my second stamp of credibility and there has been no looking back since.
Last year, I also got the privilege of meeting Ashal of the FB group AIFW. Both Pattu and Ashal’s support and their strong conviction in this ethical model has helped not just me but all fellow fee-only planners in the list. Their relentless efforts in spreading financial awareness and standing up for the investor community is inspiring.
For all the future fee-only planners contemplating this career path, or not being able to let go of product selling, my journey has taught me that this fee-only model IS the future. The sad state is that the investor community has more conviction in the fee-only model than most planners in the industry. I only hope that many more join this fee-only movement.
Although I have been in this field for the past 12 years, the last 3 have been the best years of my career yet. I have had the immense pleasure of building my practice from scratch, interacting with hundreds of families from various backgrounds and learned many new things. The biggest satisfaction I get is that I advise clients based on what is right for them and I do not have to sell a product or achieve a target. I have since worked with over 200 families, both in India and NRIs and cannot be happier to see them have clarity in their personal finances.
Thank you to all my clients who have placed their trust in me to be a partner in their financial journey and continue to do so. Thank you to Pattu and Ashal for their invaluable support and to all the fellow fee-only-India planners, who share the same passion and ethics, you are all such an inspiration.
It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. I am glad that it happened to me and I could not have asked for anything better.
Please join me in congratulating Vikram Krishnamoorthy. If you wish to work with Vikram or if you wish to become a fee-only advisor and need some counsel. you can contact him via his website: insightful
Want to read about the journey of other fee-only advisors? Check out the fee-only India archives